Joan Smith: We don't need an extra hour of darkness

Backing a Bill to save lives and energy, and lift spirits

Share
Related Topics

It's that grim point in the calendar when the clocks go back an hour. Tonight ushers in the first of the dark evenings that mark the onset of winter, and all we get in return is a useless extra hour of light in the mornings, when many of us are still in bed. What's even more galling is that the whole business is unnecessary, imposed on the entire population of this long, thin country even though the only people to benefit – and that's arguable, as I'll demonstrate in a moment – are a relatively small number living in the far north.

Since time immemorial, we've been told that it would be hugely unfair on farmers and schoolchildren in the north of Scotland if we didn't return to Greenwich Mean Time for the winter. That means not only darker evenings but remaining out of step with our business partners in Western Europe, where most countries are an hour ahead of the UK throughout the year. This week, there will be an attempt in Parliament to address this idiocy when a Private Member's Bill introduced by Rebecca Harris, Conservative MP for Castle Point in Essex, has its third reading. The Bill would put Britain's clocks one hour ahead of GMT in the winter, and two hours in the summer, for a three-year, experimental, period.

It's not the first time MPs have tried to make this shift, but the difference on this occasion is that the Bill has the support of climate change campaigners and sporting organisations as well as road safety campaigners. According to a recent poll, it also has the support of two out of three members of the public.

The scientific case for change was put powerfully last week when a Cambridge academic, Dr Elizabeth Garnsey, told a House of Commons committee that reverting to GMT in the winter wastes 0.5 per cent of Britain's energy production and causes 500,000 tons of unnecessary carbon dioxide.

At the same time, Dr Mayer Hillman of the Policy Studies Institute published a report arguing that people would be happier and healthier if the clocks were not put back in the autumn, and even made the heretical suggestion that the change would cut road deaths in Scotland.

The SNP MP for the Western Isles, Angus MacNeil, reacted angrily in the summer when David Cameron appeared to suggest that he wasn't irrevocably hostile to looking again at the subject. MacNeil said dismissively that people in the south should be encouraged to "get up earlier to enjoy the morning sunshine".

Labour's James Kelly was equally forthright, complaining that moving to Continental time would "quite literally leave Scotland in the dark", and endanger children walking to school on winter mornings.

In fact, research shows that children are at slightly greater risk in the afternoon than the mornings: nationally, 54 per cent of accidents involving child pedestrians occur between the hours of 3pm and 7pm. According to a report published earlier this year, a slight increase in morning accidents caused by a darker start to the day would be balanced by a much larger decrease in evening accidents, as was the case between 1968 and 1971, when the clocks stayed year round at GMT plus one hour.

Public opinion in Scotland is almost equally divided, with a small majority against change. But opposition is entrenched among Scottish politicians, who scoff at scientific evidence and appear to regard maintaining the status quo as a matter of national pride. If that's the case, perhaps it's time to consider the most radical option, which is allowing England and Wales to be an hour ahead of Scotland. Since the arrival of Eurostar, it's never made sense to me that London and Birmingham are on the same time as the Hebrides – but not Paris or Brussels.

www.politicalblonde.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital & Print Designer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast-growing company speci...

Recruitment Genius: IT Analyst

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Administrator - East Riding of Yorkshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Administrator - East Ridi...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continuous expansion and growth o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s Director of Communications  

i Editor's Letter: Poultry excuses from chicken spin doctors

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Women come back from the fields to sell vegetables at a market in Bangui, Central African Republic  

International Women's Day: Africa's women need to believe in themselves and start leading the way

Sylvia Bongo Ondimba
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable